The Pipeline and the Tree

Towards a New Paradigm for Education, Training and Career Paths in the Natural Sciences

Since the end of the 19th century, science education and training at academic research institutions has been viewed as proceeding along a narrow unidirectional track, a "pipeline" whose major goal is to produce new research professors within a given scientific discipline. Increasingly there are signs that this traditional model of science education and training has become inadequate, and is failing to meet many crucial demands imposed by the complex global, social and interdisciplinary landscape of 21st century natural sciences (Background Report).

Funding Agencies, the primary supporters of science in most countries, are in a unique position to facilitate changes in the culture of research training and support. Thus in November 2001 the Human Frontier Science Program and the European Science Foundation brought together heads of research funding agencies from Europe, North America and Japan to Strasbourg to discuss major problems in current approaches to promoting career opportunities in the life sciences.

Meeting participants indicated the need for a new paradigm of science education and training that is more expansive in its goals, and more organically attuned to the needs both of society and young scientists. The new paradigm is best visualized as a tree with a highly permeable network of roots and branches that reflects the broad range of inputs into the science pipeline and the wide range of opportunities for those who receive training in science. Emphasis is placed on a wider range of valued career outcomes some of which are directly involved in scientific research while others may be associated with science in varying degrees and on the importance of integrating scientific knowledge to society as a whole.

The meeting report The Pipeline and the Tree: Towards a New Paradigm for Education, Training and Career Paths in the Natural Sciences describes this new paradigm and provides recommendations for its implementation.